How Do We Do Justice?

The question matters. The prophet Micah chides Israel for her penchant for reducing true religion in chapter six of his book to religious offerings of all kinds (vv. 6-7).

He then reminds them in v. 8 of God’s three-fold formula:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

My post concerns only the first component – to do justice. What does that look like? The Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament some 418 times with various nuances of meaning, mostly pertaining to courts of law with a forensic sense.

It can, however, have a different flavor. For example, Psalm 106:3 reads, Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times. The synonymous parallelism in the Hebrew suggests equality between doing justice and doing the right thing.

Similarly, Job 29:14 says, I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. Observe, again, the close relationship between righteousness and justice.

Isaiah 1:17 couches justice within a varied range of right behavior which further reinforces this nuance of justice as doing right by others.

Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Matthew Henry commented on this first requirement of true religion:

We must do justly, must render to all their due, according as our relation and obligation to them are; we must do wrong to none, but do right to all, in their bodies, goods, and good name.

Bible scholar S. Lewis Johnson offered this in a message on Micah 6:6-8 –

What is meant is simply the upholding of that which is right or what is accordance with his word in law and in life.  In other words, commitment to the Lord God, both as it pertains to the Lord and as it pertains to fellow Israelites.  Do you know how Luther translated this?  Luther had a happy way of getting right to the point of things, and he often manifested it in some of the ways in which he translated the Bible.  He says, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good and what doth the Lord require of thee.  But to keep God’s word.”  That doesn’t seem to be too good a translation if you know Hebrew.  Actually, God’s word is not there and keep’s not there.  But he says, “To do justly,” what is to do justly?  Well, to do justly is really to keep God’s word.  That’s the way he rendered it, to keep God’s word.

So when Tim Keller in our Gospel in Life study during the 9:30 hour chooses to use the term justice to talk about what it means to do right by way of showing mercy towards the poor, the orphan, the widow, the oppressed et al, it seems to me he has hit the mark in interpreting texts like Micah 6:8 and Luke 10:25-37 and James 1:26-27.

Does Keller use provocative language to get our attention in the way he addresses the need for evidence of true religion in terms of ministries of mercy on our part that flow from true gospel life within? Absolutely!

Perhaps this is precisely what we need to blast us out of our spiritual complacency and propel us out into a needy world with compassionate deeds of mercy that meet urgent needs lest we prove unfruitful (Titus 3:14).

Your thoughts?

5000 psi & GIL

“It’s never been cleaned before,” Darlene said.

“I’ve never seen more dirt on a driveway,” Randy said.

“Sorry we took so long to get to it,” I said.

Almost a year ago to the day, the OGC faithful descended on my widow neighbor’s home for a massive painting project. We sought to put James 1:27 into action. We worked to build bridges into our local community for the gospel. I promised we would come back to do the driveway but failed to do so until this morning.

I got by with a little help, who am I kidding, a lot of help, from my friends, deacon Randy and his boy, Andre. Good thing too. Together our pressure washers combined for 5000 psi and we needed every bit of it to tackle the job.

“If you want, you can eat dinner off the concrete tonight,” I beamed.

My neighbor smiled. Her daughter thanked us profusely. The neighbors took notice. I ask for prayer every week for open doors for the gospel in La Floresta. In our postmodern world the way you get them is through acts of love and ministries of mercy.

And so tomorrow we dive into a four month study called Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything during the 9:30 adult equipping hour (including middle and high school students). We want to understand more about how the gospel of Jesus can captivate our hearts, shape our community as a church, and overflow in transforming power into our world. This curriculum from Tim Keller and the folks at Redeemer Pres aims to do just that.

Here’s the summary description for tomorrow’s first session from the GIL website:

In Session 1 we learn that we are not just to seek prosperity and peace in the city where we live, but we are to seek prosperity and peace for the city, as well. We see the reasons that cities were created, how they have fallen under sin, and how we can be a part of redeeming them—how we are a part of God’s story to redeem and restore the whole world for his glory.

From 9:30 to 9:45 we will meet in elder groups to share about our lives and pray for each other. From 9:45-10:00 we will study the Scripture passage of the day together. At 10:00 we will view a ten minute video presentation by Tim Keller, and from 10:10 to 10:30 we will move back into elder groups for discussion about the video. Newcomers are welcome to join any of the groups they like.

Please pray with me and our leadership team that God uses this equipping emphasis in a powerful way. May He make us more a church on mission in the city that we have ever been before!